Being a Bridge-Builder in an anxious, highly polarized time

By Bishop Mike Rinehart

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ,
and has given us the ministry of reconciliation…
2 Corinthians 5:18

For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one
and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.
Ephesians 2:14

bridge builder

The church is a community of moral deliberation. We talk about things that matter. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Our lives begin to end when we become silent about things that matter.” But in a highly anxious and polarized society, how do we do so gracefully? More than agreeing to disagree agreeably, the church is called to a ministry of reconciliation. This does not diminish the prophetic voice. In matters of injustice, we are called to speak the truth in love.

Even so, people of faith don’t agree on everything. They never have. Even Jesus’ disciples disagreed with one another, and at times, even with him. We aren’t called to agree on everything. We are, however, called to be a place where people can debate tough moral issues with kindness. As Lutheran theologian Rupertus Meldenius said during the Reformation,

In essentials, unity.
In non-essentials, liberty.
In all things, love.

This five-week Lenten study will give us the opportunity to hone our skills at speaking about things that matter, with kindness. We will practice listening carefully to others, even when we disagree. We will practice stating our views in ways that do not put down others. We will learn to articulate one another’s viewpoints to their satisfaction. And we will discover than we can even have fun with it. We will pray together and read Scripture.